One week before the democratic gubernatorial primary, current state controller and governor hopeful Steve Westly pressed the flesh in Santa Barbara as part of a nine-day, 17-city tour. Traveling in a bright orange bus emblazoned with the motto, “Meeting real people where they live and work,” Westly, 49, dropped into Santa Barbara’s favorite affluent liberal hangout, Restaurant Nu, for a happy hour loosely styled as a town meeting. More than 100 supporters turned out to listen as Westly declared this election season the time to “retire Republicans.” After plugging local sheriff’s candidate Bill Brown and Democratic 24th District congressional candidate Jill Martinez, Westly took aim at Governor Schwarzenegger, saying that under his watch, “Sacramento is still stuck in gridlock. Schools are under-funded and polluters continue to run rampant in this state.”

Throughout his informal speeches — which he often interrupted to answer questions — Westly repeatedly harked back to the catchphrase, “Where Washington has failed, it is California’s time to lead.” The former eBay exec specifically declared war on No Child Left Behind, offshore oil drilling, and “millionaire tax cheats.” While allowing that his opponent in the June 6 primary is a “good Democrat with a good track record,” Westly separated himself from Phil Angelides by contrasting his own longstanding pro-environment stance with Angelides’s history as a “real estate developer.” He added that Angelides has “spent his life in Sacramento, while I have spent mine in the real world.” Westly also paid homage to California’s extensive community college network, declaring that California should “stand behind” every student committed to completing a two-year degree by providing free community college.  — Ethan Stewart

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